David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, wrote an article for Forge titled Today’s World Calls for Range, not Specialization.
“The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, and even demands, hyper-specialization. While it is undoubtedly true that there are areas that require individuals with [Tiger Woods’s] precocity and clarity of purpose, as complexity increases — as technology spins the world into vaster webs of interconnected systems in which each individual only sees a small part — we also need more [Roger Federers]: people who start broad and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives while they progress. People with range.”
Aside from pointing out the strengths of generalists, the article explains the weakness of specialization.
“Early specializers can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident — a dangerous combination. In their own versions of the ‘if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’ problem, interventional cardiologists have gotten so used to treating chest pain with stents — metal tubes that pry open blood vessels — that they do so reflexively even in cases where voluminous research has proven that they are inappropriate or dangerous. A recent study found that cardiac patients were actually less likely to die if they were admitted during a national cardiology meeting, when thousands of cardiologists were away; the researchers suggested it could be because common treatments of dubious effect were less likely to be performed.”